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I Wanted a Safe Workplace In Which I Could Transition Kathrynne • Indianapolis
A Look Back At The Top 6 Big Wins for LGBT Equality In Indiana in 2016 December 16, 2016

This year has been a roller coaster—but even though the future of our movement may seem more uncertain than ever, we know where we’re going. We’re going to fight until every LGBT Hoosier is protected from discrimination.

To do that, we need to keep putting pressure on our elected officials, reaching out to our community allies for their support, and fighting locally and statewide for comprehensive nondiscrimination programs.

That’s what we did in 2016, and together, we secured major victories across the state. Let’s take a look back at our top 6 2016 victories for LGBT equality in Indiana.

6. We successfully educated lawmakers and the public about transgender Hoosiers

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This year we undertook a major public education effort to help our elected officials and the general public better understand who transgender Hoosiers are and some of the unique hardships they face.

In January we kicked off our Transgender Hoosiers for Freedom storytelling project with a profile of Cameron St. Andrew, a member of the Indiana National Guard who served in silence about his transgender identity for 13 years. He spoke about the disconnect between knowing that the military would soon allow transgender soldiers to serve openly—but that he could still be discriminated against when he stepped off base.

“No matter how hard I work, how long I’ve represented this state here and overseas with honor, and respect. I am still not protected like other Hoosiers. All we want is to be respected for being our authentic selves, in doing so we are stronger, we are more able to thrive and more able to give back to the community.” –Cameron St. Andrew, Indianapolis

In February, a group of transgender Hoosiers met lawmakers as the arrived for work at the Statehouse. Their goal? Encourage lawmakers to reinstate transgender nondiscrimination protections into a SB 344, a bill that would have provided some employment, housing and public accommodations protections for lesbian and gay Hoosiers but fell far short of being comprehensive.

And in August, transgender Hoosiers put their personal stories and lives front and center when Indiana lawmakers met for an interim study committee to discuss adding sexual orientation and gender identity protections to Indiana’s civil rights laws.

You can read more about the work we’re doing on behalf of transgender Hoosiers on our blog and on our storytelling hub.

5. We saw unprecedented business support for LGBT nondiscrimination

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At the end of 2015 more than 150 businesses across the state, both small and large, launched Indiana Competes, a coalition of businesses from united in support of comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

By May of this year this unprecedented coalition had grown to include more than 500 companies.

Indiana Competes includes businesses small and large, as well as major local innovators and Hoosier employers like Salesforce and Eli Lilly & Company.

“Lilly’s future success will be determined by our ability to attract and retain great employees. We are gratified that over 500 businesses have now joined Indiana Competes. The collective message of our coalition is clear: Indiana leaders must take decisive action to reinforce our state’s reputation as a great place to live and work—for everyone.” –Lilly Senior VP Stephen F. Fry

Indiana Competes is still going strong and always accepting new members—sign the pledge to become a part of the business coalition against discrimination.

4. We gave transgender Hoosiers more tools to make their voices heard at the ballot box

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According to a new report from the Williams Institute—an LGBT public policy think tank—as many as 34,000 transgender Americans could have been disenfranchised this year because of restrictive voter ID laws.

But Freedom Indiana was working against this statistic by educating election officials and empowering transgender Hoosiers to make their voices heard. Freedom Indiana’s trans educator Kit Malone sent a guide to every board of elections in the state detailing the particular hurdles transgender people face when they go to the polls.

We also provided transgender Hoosiers with a comprehensive guide to Voting While Transgender, which included tips on how to vote absentee and navigate Indiana’s photo ID requirement.

3. We delivered 5,500+ petition signatures to Governor-elect Holcomb

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On November 22, as lawmakers returned to the Statehouse to set the agenda for the 2017 legislative session, we delivered more than 5,500 signatures to Governor-elect Eric Holcomb urging him to support legislation protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination—and to oppose any legislation targeting LGBT Hoosiers.

The petition made clear that the Governor-elect is tasked with representing the interests of all Hoosiers, including the record majority who support LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

“As Governor, you have a chance to restore Indiana’s reputation by working alongside the majority of fair-minded people across the state to affirm that Hoosier Hospitality isn’t just a thing we talk about—it’s who we are at our core. Please stand firm against any attempt to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers and as you set forth your agenda upon taking office, affirm your support adding gender identity and sexual orientation protections to our civil rights law.”

At this point many advocates for LGBT equality in Indiana—including all of us at Freedom Indiana—were still reeling from the recent election results, but we got right back to work.

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Also giving us strength that day was a study released on October 27 showing that nearly three-fifths of respondents—58.5%—would support amending Indiana’s Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. We stopped some really, really bad bills

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Let’s not forget: we notched some very important legislative victories this year. First and foremost, we defeated “Super RFRA,” known formally as Senate Bill 66.

SB 66 would have kept in place RFRA’s nod to state-sanctioned discrimination, and it would have allowed any individual or business to ignore LGBT nondiscrimination laws that are on the books in Indiana’s cities and counties.

Even though Indiana’s economy was still reeling from the disastrous effects of passing RFRA in 2015—those effects included $60 million in lost revenue—lawmakers decided 2016 was the time to pass even harsher law.

We couldn’t let this terrible bill pass—and we didn’t. LGBT Hoosiers and allies came together, raised their voices, and said enough is enough with RFRA. Instead, it’s time to focus on passing LGBT-inclusive legislation.

1. We passed the most LGBT-inclusive local HROs in the nation

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Our biggest win of the year came in 12 parts—that’s how many municipalities have passed new or strengthened existing local LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in Indiana during the last year.

And we’ve been on an even bigger roll since RFRA passed in 2015. Since then, cities and counties across the state have passed a total of 21 local nondiscrimination protections—that’s the most passed in any state in the country in the last 18 months. Municipalities that are moving in the right direction include Tippecanoe County, Lafayette, Valparaiso, Kokomo, Evansville and Carmel.

We might be gearing up to break that record in 2017: Already, three more municipalities have lined up to pass LGBT protections in the coming months. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into these local fights—including creating a Municipal Action Center to facilitate organizing—and it’s paid off.

These local wins mean that more than a third of Hoosiers live in cities or counties where there is some sort of local law protecting them from anti-LGBT discrimination.

This is a momentous achievement, but we know it’s not enough. In 2017, we are going to fight every single anti-LGBT bill tooth and nail, and we’re going to fight until every LGBT person in our state is protected from discrimination.

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Leading medical professionals in Indiana want lawmakers to treat #trans Hoosiers with compassion: bit.ly/2mmUQ4V pic.twitter.com/lqgRIc79AD

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